ADELPHI, Md. -- Emerging technologies such as the Internet of Battlefield Things, and artificial intelligence/machine learning spur innovation according to leading scientists from DOD and industry who met for a virtual discussion on enabling cloud technologies Jan. 27.
The event, hosted by FedInsider and the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, fostered a conversation about the innovative infrastructure of cloud computing in a final three‑part series, which focused on enabling emerging cloud technologies.
Chief information officers and senior cloud executives from agencies including the U.S. Air Force, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory focused on cloud computing and related technologies.
“At ARL we innovate everything from synthetic biology and materials science, for example helping the NFL make helmets more resistant to concussions, to advanced robotics, and autonomous decision support systems” said Dr. Stephen Russell, DEVCOM ARL Information Sciences division chief. “We even conduct research for innovative power solutions, such as using atypical materials to power devices and soldiers' equipment, and of course, to research leading to the advancing the technology that are relevant to the current topic of this panel, such as cloud computing and intelligent systems.”
Russell explained the critical role of computer and information science research, necessary for continuous innovations such as AI/ML algorithms that use, and in many cases, rely on, cloud computing and underlying network infrastructures.
“Consider materials modeling as an example, to do that activity efficiently you likely need cloud compute and you need infrastructure to not only analyze complex materials properties, but also to create high‑resolution models,” Russell said. “These kinds of models are important to improve the capabilities the Army needs for the nature of its many missions.”
While highlighting the lab’s efforts innovating AI/ML enabled technologies used to benefit the Army, Russell underscored how cloud computing is commonly seen as a collective infrastructure where everything comes together.
“These same challenges extend away from the enterprise cloud to the edge of the network, when you think about mobile platforms,” Russell said. “Mobile applications have to operate in a much more dynamic environment, where you might not have all the bandwidth or other computational resources that you need to achieve your mission.”
These types of research challenges are within the scope of research at the laboratory.
“In the Information Sciences Division, we do a great deal of work on low‑level algorithms that make devices intelligent and autonomously functional across the spectrum of cloud and edge computing,” Russell said.
The panel highlighted efforts in scaling technologies, evolving trends in cloud adoption and the lab’s support of tactical edge computing. With respect to tactical edge computing, Russell said on the lab’s basic and applied research that deliver innovations to advance the Army’s information-network and autonomy capabilities.
“When you think about the fundamental research that goes into developing a machine learning algorithm; the equations; the theory, if you will, that is necessary to advance the Army's autonomy and intelligent system capabilities that work is at the core of much what we do in the Information Sciences Division,” Russell said. “For us, these problems are most complex at the tactical edge You might think of the tactical edge as the mobile part of the network.”
Russell said to think about your home, office or car as environments that are a long way from the enterprise data center and operate at the farthest reaches of the network core.
“Being able to run an application or in other words, accomplish your mission, in your car or on a bus or walking; that is operating at the tactical edge,” he said. “For the Army, it’s where the mission happens.”
Russell also highlighted the key elements of IoBT research and the benefits of having the ability to quickly and autonomously send and receive data, allowing military personnel to respond to potentially dangerous situations on the battlefield.
“IoBT is focused on overcoming the underlying challenges provided in my previous response,” Russell said. “If you think about the Internet of Battlefield Things, what you're really talking about is the environment where intelligent sensors, systems and most importantly, actuators exist -- where all of these things come together to aid and facilitate decision‑making and to do so where smart-device functions autonomously cross domains to deliver effects in physical real space.”
DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL is operationalizing science to achieve transformational overmatch. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more successful at winning the nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the Army Futures Command.